Monday, September 27, 2010


Ever since I was little I've had my most creative ideas in church. I would like to think this isn't because I'm not paying attention but because it's a quiet meditative place filled with many people leading many kinds of lives and all with their own stories and struggles and, um, really cool clothes.

Yes. I design clothes in my head in church. Have I missed my calling?

This weekend I had an actual breakthrough, after weeks of thinking I would like to make a skirt with some of the felted sweaters I've stockpiled. Specifically, a super comfy skirt of many panels I can throw on over tights and wear with boots all winter. The problem was figuring out how to get a longer length when felted sweaters are so short, and in church it hit me: I can do a 12 or so inch waistband all in one colour and then do a second row of scrap panels below that.

This solution leads to another problem, which is basically how to make the pattern pieces. Tissue paper or a big piece of inexpensive cotton would do, but either way I have to decide on how many panels and how much seam allowance and where exactly to put which curve and the button opening I had in mind and so on, mathematical challenges I can't see getting too excited about for a while.

(Clearly I have not missed my calling.)

Mere hours after said breakthrough - serendipity. I found myself in a sewing type store with a lot of very old stock alongside the new, including this little gem:

It seemed like it might be kind of like those hard cardboard shapes that tailors use to mark out the pieces for men's suit - on the cover, there are exciting messages like the number of styles of skirts you can make with it and the fact that you'll never have to buy another skirt pattern, etc.

Inside, it's exactly what I hoped for:

You can adjust the form for how much flare you want and what measurements, then set it right over fabric that's set over a mat and use a rotary cutter for minimum fuss and bother.

I'm not yet inspired to sit down in a pile of felted sweaters and decide which to put where, but I'll bet you anything the first day I set aside for writing, which will occur on the day I finish my knitting obligations, I will think of nothing else.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lost and found

I found the book!

And that wasn't the first find, either. Yesterday I got to sit in my big armchair for the first time in ages, turned to look at the books on the shelf beside me and


A library book I had to report returned or possibly missing back at the beginning of the summer was sitting right there with its spine neatly presented.

I was thrilled, but then annoyed that I hadn't found the mitten book, because I am essentially an ungrateful person.

Also: overly suspicious. I was really starting to think that there might be a prank-loving ghost living in my house because I not only lost that book, and the mitten book, and a bottle of sunscreen that was expensive and hard to source for replacement purposes, but also my compact umbrella (pink with little cars, now out of production and purchased to celebrate having got my learning-to-drive permit.)

Having found the library book on the shelf today, and the mitten book just now - it had fallen down the back of a drawer in another IKEA cabinet and was slowly getting bent out of shape in there as parts of it eased out the back where the particleboard rear had come loose, as happens with IKEA cabinets, which is how I managed to find it, noticing the weak pleas for help from those few escaping pages - I'm wondering

will I get my umbrella back now?

I mean, I've fulfilled my obligations on that front. I've stopped looking, and I've bought a replacement. But luck being what it is, I suppose it will be the sunscreen instead. I'm not nearly as likely to need that in fall.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Procrastinatory Guilt

Well, here we are at the last day of the first two weeks of my New Writing Life and I have written...

nothing, including this blog.

Though I did buy a spinning wheel, which I needed for research for some of the short stories, because it's much better to experience something than to just watch somebody else do it, if you're writing it. And experiencing spinning on somebody else's wheel just wouldn't be the same at all, honestly.

I also haven't pursued any of the felted wool art ideas I had in August while collecting sweaters, which makes me feel even more guilty about the fact that I am spending all my writing hours thinking about or playing with my spinning wheel.

That's not why I popped in though.

Last night while knitting for a change, I watched a profile on Mavis Gallant that included a personal appearance in a bookstore in which she was asked questions from the audience about how she writes, and suddenly I thought


that is a part of the job I'm not sure I would enjoy, should I ever reach the point of bookstore appearances, which at my present rate of inactivity is unlikely. It really threw me off my stride, I'll tell you. Not that there's any striding going on, but you know what I mean.

I also watched a special presentation of popular performances from Andy Williams' old TV show and whoa! was he ever dishy around the time I was born. His intro to his rendition of 'Call Me Irresponsible' reminded me that another thing he was doing around the time I was born was singing the title song for the film Charade, which I love and now want to see again, which prompted a very messy hunt through my old video tape collection looking for my copy which appears to have gone missing.

So now instead of just not writing I am
a/ spinning
b/ stealth knitting
c/ hunting to replace a movie so I can watch it.

I guess on the bright side, I'm good at guilt. Maybe I should include some guilt in the spinning stories to balance out what I don't know?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How do you like them apples?

It's early in the season for apple picking, I think, but everything was early this year - even the leaves are falling off the trees a month ahead of schedule after unfurling themselves in late March.

The day my friends and I chose to visit the farm was more like late fall - bitterly cold with a high wind - after days and days of heat and humidity.


Mary = blue feet in sandals and numb fingers peeping out from the 3/4 sleeves of a thin cotton cardi

Everybody else = winter hats, down vests, boots

Still, the view was nice.

None of the trees were marked and nobody was around to tell us what varieties of apple were growing in the orchard, but I didn't have any trouble recognizing this baby:

Russet apples are my all-time favourite. They look sort of ugly but taste oddly sweet and are only available for a short time in the fall as they are poor keepers. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

I tried to get a variety but I mostly got russets.

See these clouds?

That's what the whole sky looked like by the time my friends and I laid down blankets and pinned them with folding chairs against the fierce wind for a determined little picnic of sandwiches and fruit. I brought chocolate-covered digestive biscuits to share. It was lovely but I was longing to wrap the one extra blanket over me the entire time.

When we paid for it all plus some local honey and Saskatoon berry jam I can't wait to try, the girl at the counter said she loved my sweater and thought it looked warm. Oh that this were true. And then we ran through the rain to the parking lot.

The next day, I started sampling apples for baking vs. eating, grating the sour ones for some muffins I was about to make.

Guess what?

They're all sour. Even my beloved russets - inedible. The Honeycrisps, too. I have no idea what happened - was it the weird weather in the spring that did it, the early heat and then the cold before summer settled in? Is that they needed more time to sweeten on the branches?

All I can tell you is that there is a lot of apple crisp in my future.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Trixie's Household Tips

Man, I can't believe how many household and safety tips got written into Trixie Beldon. I'm reading The Red Trailer Mystery and here's what I've got so far:

Pantry supper idea - heat dried canned beef fried in oil, add a can of mushroom soup, add a can of peas if you're lazy about pot-washing, and smear over toast. (I haven't had breakfast yet, so I'm hungry enough to think this sounds pretty good.)

Saving a drowning person - swim out but instead of grabbing, throw a towel for your quarry to grab, tell them to flip onto their back, and tow them to shore - that way they won't flail and drown you too.

Peeling an onion without tears - do it under running water. (no word on how you chop it without tears, though.)

Cooling a minor burn - mix baking soda and warm water and smooth it over the affected area.

I love how Julie Campbell slips this stuff in without slowing the story. Makes me think I'd be pretty smart to acquire the other ones she wrote, and not just self-indulgent...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Done with Dell

Remember when it used to be exciting and crazy expensive to buy a home computer?

I remember my first - a $5000 desktop I bought to start my own writing and design business. It was such a space hog and I loved it so much. It and the ergonomic keyboard I had to buy to go with, because I've been staring down carpal tunnel syndrome since I started typing. It was a Dell and any time I had to call in for support, which wasn't often because it ran so well, the people there were so nice.

Eventually I handed it down and bought a laptop from Dell - $1500 I think, and much more space-efficient. Yay!

I love buying Dells - customizing everything, knowing that it will just turn up in the mail with all my favourite software pre-loaded - it's bliss.

But no question, Dell isn't the company it used to be in the profitable old days. No more super nice perky cheerful people - even the LiveChat people cut off communication abruptly without letting you know. Long hold times on the phone are a given, but I also find the lines themselves are scratchy and make it hard to hear. Last time I had a problem - a big one, requiring access to all the files I'd paid to store offsite on a Dell server after my hard drive fried - they wouldn't help me because they wanted a password on my hard drive. Which had fried.

So I decided my current Dell is my last, until my current Dell started showing signs of needing a replacement.

Did I mention how much I love being able to customize everything?

This time I ordered online so as to avoid the phone nightmare. Though actually, the online ordering experience is far from smooth. Still, it's the computer that counts, right? with the great screen resolution and familiar keyboard and crazy long-life battery?

Sigh. In the time it took me to turn on the freshly-arrived new laptop this morning and adjust the touchpad and cut the standard glaringly weird desktop image and key in my MS Office registration key, my wrist was aching. Why? Because the long-life battery is designed to protrude down from the bottom of the unit at the screen end. This not only makes it too big for my laptop sheath, but presents a non-adjustable tilt to the keyboard that is just murder for repetitive stress injury.

Well, I only got shunted between four people this time, and one of them had a clear phone line.

And after I explained twice what carpal tunnel is and how this particular design is horrible for it and there are no photographs of a laptop with this battery on the website so you'd know what you were committing to and no, a $100 refund to just keep the thing wouldn't solve my problem, the last person agreed to waive my return shipping fee. I think. So, you know, not so bad.

But I think this time I'm definitely done with Dell. Got another option you can recommend?